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Garner Correctional Institution Workshop

A retired prison librarian bought copies of Mentoring Teenage Heroes for every member of the play-writing workshop that he runs two nights a week. A couple of months later, I was invited to lead a discussion about the book and how it might connect to their writing. Before leaving my cell phone in my car (per the rules), I snapped this photo. Garner CI is a daunting place.

I admit that I was surprised by the enthusiasm of the students. It felt like a public library event, with a huge turnout and lots of discussion. Although, with the stark white concrete walls and tan uniforms that looked like nurse's scrubs, we could have been in a hospital cafeteria. The time flew by, and I realized how vital the creative impulse is, how limitless the imagination is, even if you live your life in a cage. It's tempting to call the play-writing workshop a mental "escape" from the reality of the writers' incarceration, but that description misses the point. We all spend that time wrapping language around universal truth. Does life get more "real" than that?

The layers of complexity of this experience reminded me of an episode of This American Life that recently aired. It's worth listening to.

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